Racing Down the Floor: Men's Basketball
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
As the calendar turned to 2011, the men’s basketball team seemed primed for a good season, having run off 10 straight victories to open up the season. The Jeffs continued to excel in the new year, and now stand undefeated at 16-0, with wins over NESCAC foes Trinity, Wesleyan and archrival Williams College.

Most of the Jeffs’ games have been lopsided affairs, with Amherst outscoring its opponents by an average of 24.9 points per game. However, two games this season have broken the trend and gone to overtime ­­— the opener against Maine-Farmington and the thriller against Williams on Jan. 8, which has been the team’s biggest victory thus far.

In the 92-89 overtime triumph, Aaron Toomey ’14 continued his breakout rookie campaign by leading the Jeffs with 21 points and adding eight rebounds, five assists and two steals to complete an impressive all-around performance. Center Peter Kaasila also provided toughness in the post, posting a double-double with 18 points and 12 boards.

The Ephs held a slight advantage for a large portion of the game, and went ahead 73-70 with just over two minutes to play on a three pointer from standout guard James Wang ’12, their leading scorer. The Jeffs managed to tie the game at 74 with 24.8 seconds to go, and the score remained that way into overtime after Wang misfired on a tough jumper and Toomey missed a deep three as time expired. Kaasila, Toomey, captain Conor Meehan ’11, Taylor Barrisse ’12 and Allen Williamson ’13 all found the basket in overtime to propel the Jeffs to an important and hard-fought victory over the number two team in the country at the time.

“It was one of the most intense games I’ve ever played in. . . two great teams battling it out, and we got the best of them this time,” Toomey said. “I can’t wait to play them again at their place.”

The Williams win, coupled with the season-long 16 game winning streak that now stands at fourth longest in program history, has propelled the Jeffs into the top 10 in the Div. III basketball rankings.

Unranked coming into the season and overlooked by the pollsters, the team has come out ready to prove its doubters wrong due to the strong leadership of captains Meehan and Kurt Bennett ’11. Meehan has been the engine of the team, leading the way in scoring with a 13.3 average. Toomey, Barrisse, Kaasila, and Willy Workman ’13 are also averaging double digits in points. Point guards Meehan and Toomey have also facilitated the offense well, and both players are putting up over three assists per game. Jeff Holmes ’12 has been the go-to-guy on the boards, averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.

The players all continued their contributions into the past week, when the Jeffs defended home court against Curry and Trinity to extend the undefeated streak to its current mark of 16 straight games. Neither of these contests were remotely as competitive as the Williams game, and the Jeffs imposed their will on both opponents on both ends of the floor.

The game against Curry last Thursday proved a glorified scrimmage for the Jeffs, as they cruised to an early 13-2 lead, extended it to a 53-15 halftime advantage, and ended up with a 101-45 blowout victory. Landrus Lewis ’13 had a series of highlight plays to end the first half, which left the Colonels in disarray. With the game well in hand, several rookies took the court in the second half and left a strong impression on the crowd with some aggressive play. Freshmen Logan Buckner , Connor Gach, David Kalema and Tom Killian helped to keep the comfortable lead, with Buckner grabbing 10 boards in the second half alone. In total, 16 different Jeffs scored in the contest, and the balanced attack was too much for an outmatched Colonel squad.

On Saturday, the competition stepped up a notch as NESCAC rival Trinity came to LeFrak Gymnasium. Yet, the outcome was no different than the previous game, with Amherst pulling out a 88-67 win. The Jeffs took an early lead and withstood a comeback surge from the Bantams to prevail. The victory was highlighted by a career night from Williamson, who dropped 21 points on 6-6 shooting from the floor, as well as converting on 9 of 10 free throws. Toomey also enjoyed a 6-6 shooting night, ending up with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Meehan, Workman and Barrisse also hit double figures in the win. The Jeffs shot 60% as a team and dominated the boards, holding a 31-18 rebounding edge that effectively took control of the contest and sent the Bantams home with a loss.

The conference opponents will continue to roll into LeFrak this weekend. Amherst takes on Colby on Friday and Bowdoin on Saturday before traveling to Rhode Island College on Tuesday. With a pair of wins this weekend, the current Jeffs could tie the 2005-6 team for the third longest win streak in program history, and could move to second with another victory over Rhode Island. As long as the team keeps up its focus and execution, even the record 23 game streak of the national champion 2006-7 team seems within reach.

Issue 12, Submitted 2011-01-26 22:39:16